Posts made in April, 2013

A Passage through the Panama Canal

Posted on Apr 23, 2013 | Comments Off on A Passage through the Panama Canal

entering the Gatun Locks Panama Canal DSC1660


By David McGonigal

It takes all day to sail the 80km of the Panama Canal. Still, that’s not a bad day’s travelling when it saves a 13,000 km voyage around Cape Horn if you’re merely sailing from one coast of the USA to the other. I was on Royal Caribbean’s 90,000 tonne Radiance of the Seas when our chatty local canal pilot blabbed that the total bill for our canal transit was a resounding $US300,120, paid well in advance.

The six great milestones in cruising are said to be sailing around the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn, through their manmade shortcuts the Suez and Panama canals, an Atlantic crossing between Europe and America or a voyage around the world. Of all these only the Panama Canal gives you the sundrenched delights of the Caribbean and the natural delights of Costa Rica and the Baha. And it’s pretty special being on a ship of almost 100,000 tons as it’s lifted 28 metres to cross a mountain range.

When France first started to cut the Panama Canal through the thinnest part of the isthmus that joins North and South America in 1880 the plan was to dig down to sea level so ships could simply sail through. After all, that had worked well for the Suez Canal that opened a decade earlier. It’s hard to imagine looking at kilometres of mountains and disease-ridden jungle filled with sloths and howler monkeys then pick up pick and shovel and think “we can dig a trench through this and link two oceans”. It’s even more surprising that it was first proposed in 1534 by the king of Spain.

However, they underestimated the environment. Excavations collapsed in the rain and thousands of workers died of disease in the swamps. It’s estimated that 30,000 of the 80,000 people that worked on the canal perished – and most (perhaps 22,000) died during the French attempt. In 1903 the US took a lease over the site with the enthusiastic support of President Theodore Roosevelt and a more-conservative lock-based crossing was designed. The first ship sailed through the canal’s three sets of locks on August 15, 1914.

Almost 100 years later I view our approach of Gatun Locks on the Caribbean side of the canal in the early hours of the morning with some trepidation. Our captain has confided that Radiance of the Seas shouldn’t fit through the Panama Canal. Many ships have been built to fit the canal – the so-called Panamax dimensions – and this is one of them. But a German construction error (now there’s a term you don’t hear very often) resulted in the ship being 106.5 feet wide – the maximum permissible beam is 106 feet. So when Radiance first passed through the canal in 2001, the President of Panama came down to watch the show. The ship squeezed through.

As I watch, Radiance appears to spill over both sides of the lock so its passage resembles trying to put a champagne cork back in the bottle but we make it through and into the manmade Gatun Lakes area. There’s a procession of ships heading in both directions and there are only a few passing lanes. I hear later that in Pedro Miguel lock the ship scrapes both sides and we leave some paint behind.

Even when I go inside to escape the tropical heat, the canal is ever-present. As many have found during Radiance of the Seas’ summer sojourns in Australia, the most impressive feature of the ship is the Centrum area amidships: soaring seven storeys high, the exterior walls are clear glass so from the lounges and bars you are constantly looking at the sea and sky – and canal workers. The walls of the elevators are glass, too, so as you ascend you are either looking down to the central bar, over an ocean panorama, or onto the tractors escorting us through the canal. Radiance OTS (as fans write it) is a big ship, but you can never forget you are at sea. In fact Radiance has been a viral YouTube sensation for its self-levelling pool tables, using technology created for North Sea oil platforms. Even in rough seas they provide no excuse for bad shots.

After lunch we pass through the Gaillard Cut where the canal slices through 12.6 km of the mountains of the Continental Divide – the link between the Andes and the Rockies. There’s extensive excavation work being done to widen the canal here and new, larger locks are due to open in 2014. At the southern end of the cut is the Centennial Bridge that looms overhead – it was built in 2004 and looks very much like Sydney’s Anzac Bridge.

Finally we reach the Miraflores Locks and emerge into the Pacific Ocean. Before heading out into open ocean we sail under the Bridge of the Americas of the Pan Americana highway that links North and South America. We’ve just sailed over a continent.


Trip Notes

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean International

Vessel: Radiance of the Seas

While Radiance has no more Panama Canal transits scheduled at present, the Legend of the Seas has15-night voyages from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego and vice versa scheduled for November this year and March next year.

For more information contact Royal Caribbean Cruises ( on 1800 754 500 or (02) 4331 5400.


Fast facts – Panama Canal

•           Panama Hats are from Ecuador – they became known to the world when worn by Ecuadorians working on the Panama Canal.

•           The Panama Canal runs north-south though it joins the Caribbean Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west.

•           The Panama Canal was owned and operated by the US until it was handed over to the Panama at midnight on December 31, 1999.

•           The centenary of the Panama Canal will be marked by the opening of new locks and passages 25 per cent larger than the current ones.

•           The cost of enlarging the canal is budgeted at $US5.5 billion.

•           Ships are already being designed for the New Panamax standards.

•           No transit through the Pamana Canal is free, ever. The cheapest toll was paid by an American adventurer named Richard Halliburton who swam the canal in 1928. His body displacement was calculated, just as it is for a cruise ship and he was invoiced 36 US cents.

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Qantas unveils new uniforms

Posted on Apr 16, 2013 | Comments Off on Qantas unveils new uniforms

Qantas Unveils new uniforms

Qantas today unveiled a new uniform, the work of acclaimed Australian designer Martin Grant, to be worn by 12,600 uniformed employees from early 2014.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said he was proud to launch a new uniform design for Qantas – the first in ten years.

“This is a new look for a new chapter for Qantas,” said Mr Joyce.

“The new uniform speaks of Australian style on the global stage.

“The design brief was to provide a unique, functional and durable uniform, suitable for a premium airline operating across Australia and around the world.

“After an extensive selection and design process, Martin Grant has created a uniform that is fresh, modern and bold – a uniform that our employees are going to enjoy wearing.

“Martin’s interpretation of the brief was developed in collaboration with Qantas employees, and the end result is a stylish and comfortable collection that will help our people feel their best no matter where they are in the world.”

Martin has designed 35 elegant garments for female and male employees. Against French navy suiting and white shirting, variations of the Qantas red – ruby red and fuchsia pink – are featured in diagonal stripes, recreating the idea of the Qantas triangle, across tops and dresses for women and on ties for men.

Female employees will wear a combination of a dress, tops, a suit and a trench overcoat, accompanied by a stylish scarf and a trilby hat in a knitted fabric made from recycled bottle tops. The male suiting is neat and structured.

Fifteen types of fabrics have been used, including Australian wool for the suits and cotton blends for the shirts, all meeting the needs of a very active frontline workforce. The range has been designed for high levels of comfort to suit a range of different work environments and climates.

Martin Grant said he was honoured to have been involved in such a significant project.

“Qantas is a well recognised and loved Australian brand, and one which has one of the strongest international logos,” he said.

“My inspiration for the uniform came from Qantas’ striking logo – the powerful red triangle and the flying kangaroo. I have always loved the Qantas logo as it’s very nostalgic for me.

“In the initial stages of design, I started thinking about things associated with Australia and I kept coming back to the Qantas logo and the image that we all have of Qantas. There is a huge amount of pride attached to Qantas and it made sense to concentrate on the Qantas logo.

“I strived for something simple and durable, while adding a bold colour palette. I wanted to create a uniform that reflected the glamour of flying and something that would suit every body shape.”

The development process saw Martin engage regularly with the Qantas Uniform Panel – a group of 12 select representatives from each of Qantas’ customer-facing uniformed departments including cabin crew and ground employees. The group was vital in providing feedback on functionality and wearability.

Qantas international and domestic cabin crew and ground employees will be wearing the new design in early 2014.

Key facts and figures:

Approximately 400,000 garments will be produced

Approximately 350,000 meters of fabric will be used

35 styles designed for male and females

15 fabrics have been selected including Premium Super Fine Australian Merino Wool in the suiting

Uniforms will be delivered to 85 different locations in 21 countries

Qantas News Link


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13 Rooms Living Sculpture – Sydney April 11-21

Posted on Apr 13, 2013 | Comments Off on 13 Rooms Living Sculpture – Sydney April 11-21

13 Rooms Living Sculpture

Art is coming to life in Sydney as more than 140 Australian performers become living sculptures in works by 13 of the world’s leading contemporary artists.

Starting 11 April, the 13 Rooms exhibition comprises of 13 purpose-built rooms on Sydney’s historic Pier 2/3 in Walsh Bay, each containing a performative art exhibit directed by some of the most iconic names in contemporary art.

The Kaldor Public Art Project #27,  brings together 13 famous artists and more than 100 performers to present an innovative group exhibition of ‘living sculpture’ within 13 purpose-built rooms. This groundbreaking event will run for 11 days and has been curated by renowned museum directors and curators Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery, and Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 in New York.

Originally commissioned as ‘11 Rooms’ by Manchester International Festival, the International Arts Festival RUHRTRIENNALE 2012-2014 and Manchester Art Gallery, this landmark exhibition will now be extended and presented at Pier 2/3 in Sydney’s Walsh Bay including new and re-imagined works, specially commissioned for this project, by some of the most celebrated artists spanning six continents. 13 Rooms in Sydney will include iconic senior artists Marina Abramović, John Baldessari and Joan Jonas along with major figures in contemporary international art today: Damien Hirst; Tino Sehgal; artist duo Allora and Calzadilla; Simon Fujiwara; Xavier Le Roy; Laura Lima; Roman Ondák; Santiago Sierra; and Xu Zhen.

In addition to the 12 international artists selected to participate in the project, Australian artist duo Clark Beaumont will be invited by the curators to present work in a new thirteenth room.

13 Rooms – Kaldor Public Art Project

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Chinese tourists now biggest source of travel spending

Posted on Apr 7, 2013 | Comments Off on Chinese tourists now biggest source of travel spending

 Chinese Tourists now biggest source of travel spending


Chinese Tourists now biggest source of travel spending according to a recent release from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. China’s expenditure on travel abroad reached US$ 102 billion in 2012, making it the first tourism source market in the world in terms of spending. Other emerging markets as well as most traditional tourism source markets also showed positive results in 2012.

Over the past decade China has been, and still is, by far the fastest-growing tourism source market in the world. Thanks to rapid urbanization, rising disposable incomes and relaxation of restrictions on foreign travel, the volume of international trips by Chinese travellers has grown from 10 million in 2000 to 83 million in 2012. Expenditure by Chinese tourists abroad has also increased almost eightfold since 2000. Boosted by an appreciating Chinese currency, Chinese travellers spent a record US$ 102 billion in international tourism in 2012, a 40% jump from 2011 when it amounted to US$ 73 billion.

With this sustained growth, China has become the largest spender in international tourism globally in 2012. In 2005 China ranked seventh in international tourism expenditure, and has since successively overtaken Italy, Japan, France and the United Kingdom. With the 2012 surge, China leaped to first place, surpassing both top spender Germany and second largest spender United States (both close to US$ 84 billion in 2012).

Some of the other emerging markets have also increased their share of world tourism spending over the past decade. Among the world’s top ten source markets by expenditure, the Russian Federation saw an increase of 32% in 2012, to US$ 43 billion, bringing it from the 7th to 5th place in the ranking of international tourism spending. Worth mentioning beyond the top ten is Brazil, with an expenditure of US$ 22 billion in 2012, moving to 12th place up from 29th place in 2005.

“Emerging economies continue to lead growth in tourism demand” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “The impressive growth of tourism expenditure from China and Russia reflects the entry into the tourism market of a growing middle class from these countries, which will surely continue to change the map of world tourism,” he added.

Although the highest growth rates in expenditure abroad came from emerging economies, key traditional source markets, usually growing at a slower pace, also posted positive results. Spending on travel abroad from Germany and the USA grew by 6% each. Spending from the UK (US$ 52 billion) grew by 4% and the country retained its 4th place in the list of major source markets. Expenditure by Canada grew by 7%, while both Australia and Japan grew by 3%. On the other hand, France (-6%) and Italy (-1%) were the only markets in the top ten to record a decline in international tourism spending.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Down Under has tripled during the past decade, despite the strong Australian dollar, new figures show Chinese visitors jumped from 190,000 in 2002 to 630,000 in 2012.


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Qantas and Emirates – A New Kangaroo route

Posted on Apr 1, 2013 | Comments Off on Qantas and Emirates – A New Kangaroo route

Qantas Emirates formation

Qantas and Emirates have marked the official start of their historic partnership, yesterday with a spectacular formation flyover of their flagship A380’s over Sydney Harbour.

The partnership marks a new era for Qantas and Emirates, and a seismic change for global aviation, as the two carriers collaborate to deliver the best network, lounges, frequent flyer benefits and travel experiences.

Chief Executive Officer of Qantas, Alan Joyce, said the partnership would make long haul travel more seamless – and faster – for millions of Australians.

“From today, our customers from Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney have one-stop access to 65 destinations in the Middle East, North Africa, the UK and Europe via the joint Qantas and Emirates network.

“By travelling through Dubai, Qantas customers can connect to the extensive Emirates network into Europe and the UK and fly directly to their destination,” said Mr Joyce.

The partnership is expected to benefit Australian tourism, with both airlines developing a global marketing campaign to promote Qantas destinations that are now part of the extended Emirates network. New codeshare destinations such as Hobart, Cairns, the Gold Coast and Port Lincoln are now part of the joint network.

Qantas is also receiving bookings from customers outside of its traditional markets, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Malaysia, for its flights between Dubai and London. These are Emirates customers opting to fly on codeshare flights operated by Qantas.

As part of the Qantas-Emirates partnership, today also marks:

– A return to a Middle East stopover for the Kangaroo route (Sydney-Dubai-London and Melbourne-Dubai-London) following a 30 year absence while it operated via Asia.
– Lounge access for eligible Qantas and Emirates passengers into either airline’s network in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and the UK and Europe.
– Chauffeur Drive for Qantas Business and First Class passengers on flights (matching Emirates’ existing service).
– The ability to redeem existing Qantas Frequent Flyer or Emirates Skywards points for flights to 175 destinations worldwide, on both airlines.
– Reciprocal status recognition for frequent flyers across both networks (e.g. priority check-in for Qantas Gold Frequent Flyers when flying Emirates).
– Harmonised baggage policies, including an increase in Qantas’ Economy checked baggage allowance from 23kg to 30kg.


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